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Born to Kill [DVD]
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
The oft-wasted (in both senses of the word) Lawrence Tierney is seen to much better effect than usual in Born to Kill, truly one of the most perverse noir romances of all time. The two leads aren't ill-starred lovers or victims of fate, they're born bad and they know it - indeed, nothing gets them hotter than talking about dead bodies. There is a rather worrying subtext that this is down to their lower-class birth, but you get the impression even if they had been born in high society that these two would have shown up the Borgias for the amateurs they were. At times it's hard to tell who is the more ruthless, Tierney's calculating but none-too-bright bull-headed murderous thug or Claire Trevor's magpie in the nest, who may not actually kill but probably does far worse - as Esther Howard says, she carries her own curse inside of her. There's great support from Elisha Cook ("I'm a baaad boy!") and, especially, Walter Slezak, superb as the wistfully philosophical private detective on their trail, open to the best offer going from either side but still not the stereotyped corrupt P.I. you expect from the genre, and refreshingly he isn't given the fate you expect either thanks to a constantly unexpected script by Eve Greene and Richard Macaulay. The tarnished, slightly grubby conscience of a film noir like no other, he's the closest thing Robert Wise's superb movie has to a hero.

Warners Region 1 NTSC DVD boasts a fine transfer and an excellent audio commentary by Eddie Muller that includes some outrageous Tierney stories for good measure, though that's absent from Odeon's less impressive UK DVD. The NTSC version is highly recommended, and how!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This 1947 "film noir" is a very original and interesting thing and I really enjoyed watching it. Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.

Sam Wild (Laurence Tierney) is a strikingly handsome and physically very powerful guy, a little bit rough on the edges and with a somehow shady, mysterious past - in one word, he is every woman's dream (and every husband and fiancé nightmare...). But there is one more important thing about him, that we learn in the first minutes of this film - he is also a total sociopath and a murderer.

The sickness that has rotten his mind and soul to the core comes from two deadly sins: insane jealousy ("nobody cuts in on me!") and terrible, grotesquely hyperinflated wounded pride ("nobody is making a monkey of me, nobody!"). Few people ever saw this side of him and lived to talk about it - in fact the only one we know about is his only pal and kind of a sidekick, Marty Waterman (Elisha Cook Jr). This guy is in fact himself quite a piece of work... We never learn what exactly he and Sam were doing together before this story begins and honestly, maybe it is better that way...

I will not say much about the story except that Sam will meet successively three attractive women: silly flirtatious Laury Palmer (Isabel Jewell), serious, clever recent divorcée Helen Brent (Claire Trevor) and a gorgeous, sculpturally beautiful blond heiress Georgia Staples (Audrey Long). He will also meet Fred Grover, an aristocratic, calm, a little distant rich man, who is also Helen's new fiancée and last but not least a shady, sleazy, weasely, manipulative, sniggering private detective Albert Arnett (played absolutely wonderfully by Walter Slezak). We will ultimately discover that one of those five people is as rotten as Sam himself, albeit maybe in a somehow different way - but I am not saying which one of them it is...

I will keep this review short to avoid any temptation to give spoilers because you REALLY want to discover this whole film by yourself. Therefore I will just say that director, writer and actors did every single possible thing to make this film in a tense, dramatic, enjoyable and yet heart-breaking study of human strengths and weaknesses, creating a gallery of extremely colourful characters. This is a black and white film but in fact all the colours were used: promiscuitous pink, shady grey, innocent white, noble purple, rich gold - and also green for jealousy, red for rage, brown for old blood stains and black for the abyss...

This is a great movie and a real must for all amateurs of "film noir"! ENJOY!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Lady of Deceit (AKA: Born to Kill) is directed by Robert Wise and adapted to screenplay by Eve Greene and Richard Macaulay from the novel Deadlier than the Male written by James Gunn. It stars Claire Trevor, Lawrence Tierney, Walter Slezak, Elisha Cook Jr., Audrey Long, Isabel Jewell and Esther Howard. Music is by Paul Sawtell and cinematography by Robert De Grasse.

Trevor plays conniving divorcée Helen Brent, who risks her chances at the wealth and security she craves with the man she doesn't love by falling for hotheaded murderer Sam Wild (Tierney), who, with his own agenda, is soon to marry her foster sister.

I wouldn't trade places with you if they sliced me into little pieces.

Hard-bitten noir of some substance that pits two of noir's most unlikable characters against each other. Tierney's psychotic machismo and Trevor's calculating sex-bomb go head to head in a deliriously distorted romance that will only go one way once their inner pursuit of glory comes to the fore.

And he who falls beneath her spell has need of God's mercy.

The plot is a bit hard to take, but when in noirville it sometimes helps to stop off for a bite to eat at the fantastique café. It's a grim tale of pathological persons and it's superbly directed by Wise in what was his first foray into straight edged film noir. Slezak adds some seedy quality as a bible quoting P.I., Cook Junior does what he does best and Jewell inputs the naive sexy glamour.

Voluptuous violence and mad love in the shadows. Hooray! 8/10
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I enjoyed this film a lot, though perhaps it was a little slow at times. Claire Trevor is wonderful as the icy money-obsessed heiress who falls for Lawrence Tierney's cold blooded killer despite suspecting his crimes. Lots of great support especially from genre favourite Elisha Cook Jr. make this film worth seeing
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on 8 June 2014
Claire Trevor is gloriously ruthless as the spoilt socialite with a nice sister and Lawrence Tierney is suitably sociopathic as her partner in crime. Their performances, with that of Esther Howard as a slovenly drunk, lift the film above the average for a noir-ish melo where the wrong side of the tracks meets glossy high society. Sit back and enjoy!
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